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Curves Kailua closes its doors


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just like any small business owner, Curves Kailua franchise owner Robbi Ugini did everything she could, but fell victim to tough economic times.

               

     

 

 

The former Curves Kailua

        » Address: 46 Hoolai St., Kailua

       

» Message line: 294-0282

       

» E-mail: kurveskailua@ verizon.net

       

Source: Curves Kailua

       

       

After making a costly move to a new space due to the end of a lease, and having offers from two potential buyers fall through, Ugini said she had no choice but to close earlier this month.

She had been operating in the red for the last year.

The closure was abrupt, leaving some 270 members in the lurch. Five staff members also lost their jobs.

"I made sure my staff was paid," said Ugini. "I had the very best staff in the world."

Ugini said she is working on notifying everyone of their options. She said members' payments made on Oct. 5 have all been canceled.

Qualified members can request a travel card, she said, which allows them to use another Curves on Oahu for up to 20 days after they have been issued.

Some have gone to the Curves in Kaneohe, which is owned by a different franchise owner, but it won't be able to take everyone.

"I am going to contact everyone," she said. "It's just going to take me a little more time to get to everybody."

Some members paid on a monthly basis, some prepaid for three months and others for the entire year.

A former member, who preferred to remain anonymous, said there was no advance notice of the closure. She found out from a sign on the door.

The sign informed members it had to close due to financial issues, but did offer a message line and contact information.

The member called Curves International on the mainland, but was informed that since each franchise is individually owned, it could not issue any refunds.

Texas-based Curves, which launched its franchise operation in 1995, has more than 7,000 locations in the U.S.

A corporate spokeswoman for Curves did not return calls by press time yesterday. A search for Oahu locations on curves.com yielded 17 franchises ranging from Manoa to Mililani and Laie.

"I would do anything," said Ugini. "If I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd open it back up."

When she first launched the Curves franchise at the Enchanted Lake shopping center in 2005, she said the business was doing well with 435 members. Then the lease was up, and she moved it to the Hoolai Street location last year, above Agnes' Portuguese Bake Shop.

Ugini said before the move there was an interested buyer who did not go through with the transaction due to financial issues.

After moving to the new location, she had another interested buyer she was expecting to close this month.

But when that buyer decided to pull out suddenly, she had no choice but to close.

Ugini said she is still looking for interested buyers. When the business was listed, she was asking for $15,000 - a fraction of her initial investment.

The sale would include the membership base, but the new owner would have to invest in new equipment Curves has since incorporated.

"'Basically I'm liquidating everything," she said.

Ugini, who lives on the mainland, is one of three partners who owned the Curves Kailua franchise.

Mark Heilbron, a business broker at VR Mergers & Acquisitions, categorized Curves as a trendy kind of business.

Heilbron said he sold two Curves franchises over the last three years, but had several listed this last year that never sold.

"It's a faddish type of business," he said. "They made a lot of money and then when the trend went out, people who were still in them lost a lot of money."

While buyers are more cautious in these economic times, Heilbron said they are still out there, with money they'd rather invest in a business than in the volatile stock market.

"Most people get talked into buying a franchise, and you've got to realize, depending on who the franchisor is, that most don't care whether the franchisee makes it or not," he said.